Consumer Behaviours of Online Shopping in Australia: eCommerce Research

Let’s face it, running an eCommerce store is hard. You’ve got staff to oversee, suppliers to negotiate with, inventory to manage, product photos and descriptions to perfect – and just when you think you’ve nailed it, a competitor starts buying up ad spots to appear ahead of you in search results.

What should an online store owner do to stay ahead? How do you remain competitive, even if you lack the ad budget to compete on level terms?

The answer lies in knowing your audience and using this insight to personalise your content so that it resonates and is useful and meaningful to different sectors and demographics. It doesn’t matter how much money your competitors spend on bringing customers to their website if they blow it all with a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to customer experience.

These days, the focus of most industry reports is on the emerging market of millennials and Gen Z. Older consumers are rarely studied and have instead been neglected. But according to a 2018 report by COTA, nearly a third of Australia’s population is aged 50 or over. With global eCommerce sales expected to reach $4.5 trillion by 2021, ignoring older consumers will mean missing out on huge revenue opportunities.

In this new eCommerce Research Report, we investigate the 55+ age group in more detail, specifically looking at how they behave when shopping online compared to younger consumers. While we didn’t set out to disprove any preconceived notions about this group of customers, many of the results we found were surprising – and prove why knowing as much about your audience as possible is vital to business success and improving your online customer experience through effective use of UX Design.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Back in 2018, Sitback’s former Experience Design Director, Àine Hart, gave a presentation at ad:tech 2018 about the behaviours and needs of older people online and how businesses stand to miss out on a massive opportunity if they failed to cater to this demographic.

The presentation was incredibly well-received, and it was clear to us that marketers and product managers were hungry for more information on how to target this market segment; often treated as an after-thought, if given consideration at all.

Backed by the Sitback team of registered psychologists, we set out to see what else we could learn about this demographic and how businesses can provide them with a better, more personalised experience.We wanted to create a report that transformed meaningless statistics into specific, clear and actionable insights based on our extensive knowledge of user experience design, distilling the information into recommendations and advice for eCommerce leaders everywhere.

Key Insights to Challenge Preconceptions

After crunching the numbers, modelling stats in SPSS and interpreting the data, we found many key insights that challenged our preconceived notions of how older consumers interact online.

There’s a common misconception in the marketplace that older people are not tech-savvy and don’t go online often. Our research proved this to be completely untrue. It’s just what people are looking for from their online experience that changes across demographics.

For example, we assumed older shoppers would actively seek out product recommendations from friends and family, In fact, they are 10% less likely to value word of mouth recommendations and customer reviews than younger generations. The upshot of this for businesses is that they can’t rely on online reviews to influence older consumers when it comes time to purchase, and instead should look at alternative strategies to attract and appeal to this demographic.


Another finding that goes against many of the messages marketers are receiving today was that regardless of consumer age, chatbots and live chat widgets don’t impact whether people decide to purchase a product. Chatbots are predicted to power 85% of customer service interactions by 2020, and accordingly many businesses are clamoring over themselves to implement this technology.

While it seems true that chatbots are indeed useful in a support context, and arguably B2B sales too, they appear considerably less relevant in B2C sales environments. Refunds and free returns are, in fact, far more likely to influence a purchase. Clearly, there is a fundamental disconnect between brand strategy and customer intention.

Of course, that is not to say the landscape won’t change. With Facebook Messenger allowing the creation of purchase flows within the app, and other tools slowly adding similar functionality, usage of chatbots and AI-powered purchase journeys is likely to increase. To capitalise on this evolving technology, brands should focus on making the experience with a chatbot a tailored and positive one – creating customer focused journeys rather than relying on out of the box configurations, or flows that are only relevant to one demographic.

A Good User Experience Makes Good Business Sense

A 2017 Forrester study found that “a well-designed interface can boost conversion rates by up to 200%, and a better overall UX design can boost conversion rates by a massive 400%”. Clearly there is much to be gained by making your user experience as accessible as possible across your range of customer types.

Any brand that wants to be a leader in their space will benefit from a thorough understanding of consumer psychology and audience behaviours, and this can only come from improved functionality and customer experience enhancements backed by in-depth research.

Taking the time to research your key audience demographics and determining what functionality you need to provide up-front will drastically reduce the time spent actually building your platform. And your product will be more successful in the long term.

If you think this is something to focus on in another quarter, take a look at the stats and maybe reassess – Statista report that 80.8% of Australia’s population already shop online. It is vital that you focus on creating seamless online experiences today.

Our research has proven that older consumers have adapted to the digital age, despite not being digital natives, and they demand full autonomy in their experiences. While their preferences are different from younger consumers in many cases, they want just as much from their experiences with eCommerce platforms.

In the long term, if businesses don’t optimise their user experience for all demographics in a useful and personalised way, they stand to miss out on a considerable opportunity for revenue and organisational growth.

Download your copy of the free eCommerce Research Report. You can also explore our best email marketing agencies in Australia, and best real estate marketing agencies in Australia directories as further reading.